Unethical behavior using information technology

by Chatterjee, Sutirtha, Ph.D., WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY, 2008, 114 pages; 3370378


The aim of this dissertation is to theoretically develop and empirically test a model predicting unethical use of IT. The arguments are based on the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), philosophy of ethics, and economics of unethical behavior. Furthermore, this work aims to understand how technology influences this unethical use of IT.

At a broad level, this work incorporates the meta-framework provided by TPB and argues that attitude and subjective norms toward unethically using IT are strong predictors of intention of unethically using IT. Attitude is strongly influenced by ethical beliefs of the individual (drawing from the philosophical perspectives) and moral intensity of the act (of unethically using IT). Unethical use of IT is strongly predicted by intention to unethically use IT. Furthermore, unethical usage of IT is seen as an example of opportunistic behavior and this work examines as to how technology itself may provide facilitating conditions of such opportunistic behavior, thus influencing the intention to indulge in such behavior. Overall, this work examines unethical use of IT from philosophical (typically this is at an individual level), social, and technological angles and blends these considerations into a general theoretical model that can be empirically tested.

A case-scenario based empirical study was conducted in order to test for the hypotheses. The subjects were undergraduate students in a large introductory Information Systems class. The subjects were randomly assigned a case scenario describing an example of unethical use of IT and answered a questionnaire based on the case scenario. In addition, the subjects were asked questions regarding their own personal opinions in certain matters of unethical use of IT. The results of the empirical study show a significant amount of convergence with the hypotheses posited. The findings reveal that unethical use of IT is determined by individual factors such as ethical beliefs, social factors such as subjective norms, economic factors such as overall perception of gain, and technological factors such as the facilitation afforded by the technology and individual’s belief in the ability to manipulate IT. The contribution, limitation, and future implications, both in terms of research and practice, are discussed.

AdviserJoseph S. Valacich
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsBusiness; Information technology
Publication Number3370378

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